World this week

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business on Monday won the Nobel economics prize for documenting the way people’s behavior doesn’t conform to economic models that portray them as perfectly rational. As one of the founders of behavioral economics, he has helped change the way economists look at the world. Far from being the rational decision-makers described in economic theory, Thaler found, people often make decisions that don’t serve their best interests.

“I try to teach people to make fewer mistakes,” Thaler told the Associated Press. “But in designing economic policies, we need to take full account of the fact that people are busy, they’re absent-minded, they’re lazy and that we should try to make things as easy for them as possible.” Thaler’s work is grounded in day-to-day reality and connected to popular culture in a way that isn’t always true of Nobel-winning economists. “He’s made economics more human,” said Peter Gardenfors, a member of the prize committee.

Asked how he would spend the $1 million prize money, Prof Thaler answered: “Irrationally.”

Meanwhile, needlessly disappointing some in Bangladesh, the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”. As it happens, two Bangladeshi NGOs that are reportedly signed up to the campaign do make it somewhere near the prize. Any non-government organization is eligible to become an ICAN partner organization, according to their website. No joining fee or annual subscription is required. It has 468 such ‘partners’ across 101 countries.


Ten people died in northern California after what officials described as an “unprecedented” wild fire that devastated large swathes of the state’s wine country. Amy Head, the fire captain spokesperson for Cal Fire, the state agency responsible for fire protection, confirmed the number of fatalities late on Monday.

“We often have multiple fires going on, but the majority of them all started right around same time period, same time of night – it’s unprecedented,” she told the Guardian. “I hate using that word because it’s been overused a lot lately because of how fires have been in the past few years, but it truly is – there’s just been a lot of destruction.”

The flames were burning “at explosive rates” because of 50 mph winds, said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More than 5,000 Southern California homes were evacuated Monday as fire crews struggled to battle a rapidly growing brush fire. The blaze scorched 6,000 acres and destroyed dozens of structures in Orange County. Plumes of smoke were said to be  visible over Disneyland and officials issued air quality warnings for parts of Los Angeles County.

There was no containment as we went to press.


In India, the death sentences given to 11 convicts for burning the Sabarmati Express in Godhra in 2002 was commuted to life imprisonment. Delivering the verdict on October 9,, a division bench of Justices Anant S Dave and GR Udhwani of the Gujarat high court said that it was upholding the conviction of the 11 but commuting their punishment to rigorous life imprisonment. The HC also upheld life sentences given to 20 others by a special court that tried the case.

Fifty-nine Kar Sevaks (pilgrims) were burnt to death after the Sabarmati Express was torched in Godhra on February 27, 2002. The incident triggered the large-scale communal riots in Gujarat, and earned the then chief minister of the state, one Narendra Modi, his first bout of infamy. The lawyer representing the victims said that they would approach the Supreme Court against commuting of sentences.

“The state has failed to maintain law and order, so has the railways,” the high court said, while ordering the state and the railways to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of each of the victims.

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